Herd animals are always difficult to photograph. They never look the same way! This little group of Fallow Deer sheltering from early spring sunshine and framed by the tree caught my attention.
We went to watch ‘Kong – Skull Island’ the other night at the cinema. Give it a miss; thin non-captivating plot, mediocre acting and CGI worthy of no more than a computer game. It was a late showing so we drove back home quite late at night. I like driving in the dark. We went by the scenic route. Country lanes, field edges, roadside copses and overhanging trees. It was mild too. I expected badgers, deer, rabbits, hares and the odd owl. What did we get? … a single, lonely moth. Just the one!
And yet … earlier in the week we had been for a walk along the dunes to see the Grey Seals hauled out on the beach. We didn’t count them all but it was plain to see there were a lot. We estimated there to be 3000 over a mile or so of beach. It wouldn’t have been far from the true number. This is more than I’ve ever seen before… anywhere. The tide was high and it was a weekday with few people and dogs around. Seals will have been pushed here from the sandbanks off Yarmouth and there was little disturbance to push them back into the sea here so numbers would be at a peak. 3000 equates to 1% of the world population. Even this weekend when things were much busier with people I did a more accurate count on a lower tide and there was 1426. Less than half the number than a few days earlier but that’s still a lot of seal flesh perched on the sand. Nothing less than a wildlife spectacular. A scene from an Attenborough episode.
What a juxtaposition of events.
When we have such spectacles and numbers it’s easy to think everything is ok. To think things are on track; that nature is in balance and our wildlife is safe.
Puerto Madryn is a city and port on the coast of Argentina. It’s not a particularly big city nor is it a particularly big port. However, it lies in a massive natural harbour…and I mean massive. Take a look on google earth. To the north is an isthmus of land that has another large harbour to the north of that.
These inlets are renowned as breeding sites for Southern Right Whales. The whales leave the bays in early December but as we sailed into port during an early morning of this month I was scanning hard to see the distinctive V shaped blow of this species. After all there may have been a late animal; a stray that had delayed its journey south to the antarctic-circle. As we travelled the area of land between the bays throughout the day I kept a close eye on the sea … nada … nothing.
Even as we sailed out of the bay that evening heading south despite keeping an eye open for that distinctive V shaped blow I was disappointed.
The whole of the next day was spent at sea. I was up early. The very first thing I saw as I stumbled out onto the lower deck was a blow. But what was it? It was travelling with the ship so I got several bites of the cherry as the blow was repeated. A good V shape. Excellent. I went to the upper open restaurant for breakfast already satisfied I’d seen Southern Right Whale. As I tucked into my melon slices another blow, then another well off the stern. Another tail slapping in the distance. In all I reckon there were 25 to 30 Southern Right Whales in the area. What we needed was one to slip close by the ship. No sooner had the thought entered my mind a blow struck up under the starboard side. The whale’s finless back was visible and as it rose to breathe the strongly arched mouth came into view as did the head covered in callosities. Wonderful.
We had stumbled upon a pod of Southern Rights making their way south to the Antarctic Circle. What are the chances of that?
The end of another year is almost upon us. Goodbye 2016 and hello 2017. Thinking back through the last twelve months there’s been so many good sightings; so many good times. It really has been a good year.
The Geese and Goosanders on the Solway Tour performed for us as did all the specialities on the April Scotland Tour. The Mull tour was spectacular; eagles, whales and more. Canada leaves Humpbacks breaching through my memories for many years to come. Scilly was a classic. Orchids, butterflies and Nightjars all played a part during the year. So many sightings, so many places.
If I was to choose one moment; one sighting above all others, it would have to be seeing Cuvier’s Beaked Whales in the bay of Biscay. Beautiful, enigmatic, specialised life forms that we can only peek at through tiny keyholes in time before they descend once more to the depths.
Happy New Year… have a good one.
Chinese Water Deer are one of those animals that doesn’t like daylight. It’s not until dusk starts to creep into the equation that it start to come alive. I saw this one as I was walking back to the car last week. The day had been unusually mild. It had obviously been laid among the sedges absorbing the warmth from the winter sun. As the shadows got longer it was starting to cool. The deer stood up and shook itself before slipping away behind the vegetation again.
Let me take this opportunity to wish all Letter from Norfolk readers a very Merry Christmas and remind you all we’ve turned a corner …the days are now getting longer!
As we get past mid December it starts to get quiet for me. Or at least it does on the tour front. The days are still busy but on catch-up work; admin that’s been in a state of comatose on the edge of my desk for the past season is now resuscitated and given a sharp fist in the chest. However, no matter how busy I am if I sit down at the laptop I can’t help daydreaming and looking at some of the photos I took during the summer.
I came across this one I took in the Bay of Fundy during August. There’s just something wonderful about seeing a humpback breach; throwing it’s entire bulk from the water. How on earth do they manage to do that. I liked the photo not just for the whale and what it was doing but for the setting; the arching spray, a gently rippling sea, blue sky and white fluffy clouds and Grand Manan Island in the distance. It sort of set the scene. It was a good reminder of a special time.
On a recent talk I did on cetaceans for the North East Norfolk Bird Club I was asked, by the youngest member of the audience, why whales breach. It’s difficult to say with any certainty. It could be to dislodge annoying parasites and barnacles. It could be a way of communication with other whales – after all the sound they make on re-entering the sea is like the report of a cannon. It could be part of their display or it could just be for the sheer hell of it … for fun!